Confident Fiorina Looks Past Primary to Boxer

Monday, 07 Jun 2010 02:37 PM

By John Mercurio

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Republican Carly Fiorina is so confident she’ll win the Senate primary in California on Tuesday that she’s already looking past her two main GOP rivals to train her sights on her Democratic target, Sen. Barbara Boxer.

In a new TV ad, Fiorina, the multimillionaire former Hewlett-Packard CEO, who’s widely known as a chief surrogate for Sen. John McCain’s, R-Ariz., presidential campaign in 2008, dismisses the three-term senator’s record on national security and preoccupation with climate change — or, as Fiorina calls it, “weather.”

“We've had enough of her politics,” Fiorina says in the 30-second ad. “I’ll work to keep you safe.”

Before she can do that, however, Fiorina needs to win a three-way primary that has undergone many twists and turns this year. Recent polls show Fiorina holds double-digit leads over Republican state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, a Tea Party conservative with working-class roots, and former Rep. Tom Campbell, a moderate Republican who has bounced back and forth between politics and academia since leaving Congress in 2000.

Campbell announced Tuesday that he was pulling all TV ads before the primary, only to reverse course the next day. In a hastily produced new ad, Campbell cites polls showing he has a better shot than Fiorina or DeVore at defeating Boxer this fall. “Let's not lose this historic opportunity to replace Senator Barbara Boxer,” Campbell says in the spot. “With your vote, I can do it.”

Indeed, Republicans in California face a familiar conundrum this year: Dominated by conservatives, they tend to nominate candidates for statewide office who struggle to win over moderate and independent voters. Recent polls show Boxer holds sizable leads over Fiorina and DeVore. The Democrat also has drawn two fundraising visits this spring from President Obama, who remains wildly popular in California, which has helped her campaign stockpile a daunting $7.3 million war chest.

While the race has been relatively quiet, Fiorina’s campaign made a splash in February when it aired one of the more oddball videos of the 2010 campaign season. The campy spot, ostensibly designed to criticize Campbell’s fiscal record, depicted her rival as a red-eyed “demon sheep” who deceives the conservative masses (a herd of real sheep) about his true colors. The video was panned by Beltway insiders, but it nonetheless went viral, drawing more than 1 million views on YouTube within two weeks and rising to the top of Twitter topics. Her campaign later followed up with another video, more than seven minutes long, depicting Boxer as a crazed blimp, floating across the country.

The campaign defended the bizarre strategy. “The key is to create something entertaining, something that people will talk about," campaign spokeswoman Julie Soderlund told the San Jose Mercury-News. “Whether you thought it was good or bad, it broke through the clutter.” Going forward, she added, “I think you can expect equally, if not more, shocking content.”

Stay tuned.

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